I’ve received several requests for letters of recommendation over the last few weeks, so I’m posting this blog by way of advice for those seeking letters of recommendation. If you’re going to ask for a letter of recommendation for graduate school in the humanities, be prepared for the fact that any responsible professor is going to ask you questions about what you want to study and why, and for the fact that a responsible professor will also give you horrible news (check out this more recent Atlantic Monthly article too) about the state of the profession.
You can respond to these questions one of two ways:
1. Like this:
To put it as basically as I can in limited time, I’m heavily influenced by the work of Paulo Freire in literacy studies and pedagogy. But, this transfers over to how I look at works of literature too. I’ve been fascinated for the past few years about the way literacy sponsorship shapes our identities within groups and between groups. In essence, education and literacy is a political act, there is no way to get around that. This is where Freire and identity and democracy always struck me as the most powerful in terms of theory–which I’d like to really study more in my next program, as I haven’t had the chance to dive into the theory and application of these concepts as much as I’d like to. In such a way, it is also very important not to overlook or discourage conflict and dissent in classroom dialogue (which should be the driver of knowledge and learning). It’s important not to just validate but to allow learning through these conflicts of experience–looking at the shape and method of the dialogue as much as what’s being said. In this way, I’d like students in my classroom to come to a sense of identity and voice through learning about literacy, not just how to write for college or whatever genre, but why we write and what that means.
And I realize I’m writing all of this in 2 minutes on my break from grading, so if that sounds like a jumbled rant, I apologize, ha.*
*Text of actual Facebook IM session with a former student of mine in which she answered my questions right off the top of her head.
That student gets a glowing letter of recommendation. The job market is bad right now, and I told her, but she’s up to the risk.
2. Or, answer this way: